To celebrate the official opening of our new European Development Center in Barcelona this week, we’re highlighting some of the people who make our Barcelona team great. For our final interview, we sat down with Senior Product Designer Ricardo Fernández to ask him about how he got interested in product design, his role on our team in Spain, and why he’s happy to call the beautiful city of Barcelona home.
New Relic: Tell us a little bit about your background, Ricardo. What were you doing before New Relic?
Ricardo Fernández: I’ve got a bit of a weird background for a designer (who doesn’t nowadays?). While studying computer science I became fascinated with the Internet and the possibilities it opens up to us. I decided I wanted to work on Web-related products, and from the start of my professional career I knew I wanted to fully understand the different roles involved in the creation of those products. So I spent several years jumping between different branches of Web development, trying to become a one-man Web development “Swiss Army knife.” With that goal in mind I worked as a Web designer, fronted developer, Web accessibility consultant, and backend developer for several years.
New Relic: What brought you to New Relic?
Ricardo: I eventually decided to focus on product design, something I realized I loved doing. I started studying design and went to work for a design studio for several years, where I was lucky enough to work with impressive designers and interesting clients. One of those clients was Ducksboard, which got acquired by New Relic last year. They liked the way I work, I liked New Relic’s vision … and here I am.
When you work for an agency you get to work on many different products, so you get a broad perspective about product design while learning about a wide array of topics. In my opinion, that’s one of the best things about working as a designer. But it usually has a downside: when a product goes into production, it goes out into the world. And, as time passes, you’re not always around to make the changes your product needs to evolve and grow to its full potential. I felt it was time to focus on only one product, and I wanted to do this in a company that was building a meaningful and valued tool for thousands of people, somewhere with the resources to create a market-leading product. New Relic was the perfect fit.
New Relic: How long have you been here and what do you work on?
Ricardo: I’ve been working on the New Relic product design team since February 2015. We are in charge of both evolving the design of our products to make them more valuable to customers, and exploring ideas for new features or products if they make sense and add meaning and value to what we already have. In the end, the design of digital products involves creating a sequence of images on a computer screen and developing a logical way to move through those images. And that’s what we do—we simulate scenarios and choose the ones that we think will work best for our customers’ goals.
New Relic: What’s your favorite part of working at New Relic?
Ricardo: The best thing about New Relic is that you get the benefits of working for both a large and small company. You get to work on a first-class product used by thousands of people, and with some of the most talented coworkers you can find. But at the same time you do it in a very decentralized way—you work in small teams and your work has real impact on the end user experience. So you feel the freedom of working for a startup even though you’re actually working for a large, established company.
New Relic: What are some of the challenges of your job, and how have you overcome them?
Ricardo: For me the biggest challenge is to make my work invisible for the end user, and the only way to accomplish this is with experience and hard work. The first implementation of something usually feels rough, clunky. There’s an impressive amount of work from that initial point to the point where every detail is polished and every weird behavior or unnecessary element is removed. Everything is where it should be and users think, “Well, it’s obvious to put that there; surely it wasn’t a big deal to design this thing.” The moment people start thinking your designs are not only a pleasure to use but also simply common sense, you know you’re doing it right.
New Relic: What do you like about the Barcelona tech scene, and how do you feel you are contributing to it?
Ricardo: Barcelona is becoming one of Europe’s hot tech hubs, with a healthy ecosystem of entrepreneurs, investors, investment firms, accelerators, incubators … you name it. But what I like most about it is, unlike other tech hubs, the startups scene here is not predominantly Spanish. You can find thriving startups founded by investors from London, Paris, Berlin, and Stockholm; it’s a very open and competitive place.
New Relic: How you think New Relic is different from other tech companies you’ve worked for?
Ricardo: The amount of effort the company puts in creating a great place to work is impressive. No wonder New Relic has been listed so many times in those “great places to work” lists. For the first time in my professional life, I feel that my managers are actually making my work easier, not harder.
New Relic: What are your career goals and how is working at New Relic helping you achieve them?
Ricardo: I’ve always said my goal is to become the best designer I can be, and for that you need to work on not only a wide range of products but also on complex ones. You learn a lot of important things working with products like the ones making up the New Relic Platform, and definitely having so many talented people aorund you helps a lot with your personal growth.
New Relic: Is there a person or company in the technology industry that you admire, and why?
Ricardo: Well, the obvious answer would be companies like Apple, Google … the usual suspects. Apple changed our lives by introducing a new interaction paradigm with a new set of devices everyone carries in their pockets. And the work Google has done defining material design is impressive. Defining such a solid design system to give coherence to all Google-ly things—and adopting it so effectively across such a large product suite—is definitely something to admire.
But there’s also a lot of other people out there doing impressive things: Huge, Ustwo, Hey Studio, Intercom, Squarespace, Bohemian Coding, Hyperakt, Mike Bostock, and Oliver Reichenstein … the technology industry is amazing nowadays, lots of awesome people doing lots of awesome things.
New Relic: What’s it like to work in a satellite office of an American technology company?
Ricardo: You get all the benefits of working for an American company, but you keep your house at sunny Barcelona, with the Costa Brava close by and some of the best restaurants in the world. I’m not complaining.
New Relic: What’s your favorite thing about the city of Barcelona?
Ricardo: It has the best traits of a big city but still has that “small city” feel. Barcelona is smaller than Madrid and much smaller than Paris, London, or New York. It’s one of those “great things that come in a small package.”
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